By Joey Cannavo (and Nonna)
Have you ever heard of Sicily? Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea with many beautiful beaches, cities and small comuni (communities). To get to La Sicilia you have to fly or take a ferry. After my visit to Rome our family took a plane to get there. We flew to Catania where our family picked us up to drive us to our ancestral home of Graniti. Ancestral means that this is where your family members come from originally. In this case my daddy’s family came from this town in the early 1900s.
One of the coolest things I saw when the plane was about to land was Mount Etna. It is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, and has been pouring out lava since 1500 B.C. Its last eruption happened in May of this year when it spit out lava balls and large clouds of ash. You can see the volcano from many of the cities and towns in Sicily because it is so big!
I was so excited when we arrived in Graniti. All the family was waiting for us and although I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying I knew they were happy to meet me. The town is so different from where I live. Graniti is a small paese (town) surrounded by mountains with about 1,500 people living there. It is a very old town with narrow streets and only two ways to drive in and out. Many families live close to each other and sometimes, instead of using phones, they call across the narrow streets to ask questions. I had a great time playing with two of my cousins, Marco and Ludovica. We played games on an old computer and cards.
I made new friends at the beach and when we went to the river at the Gole Alcantara. I met children my age from Germany, France and England. The river is very cold and has cut through the lava rock over the centuries. I also visited Taormina and had dinner at a great pizzeria set on the edge of a high mountain where they built the town of Castelmola. From here you could see all the villages on the slopes of Mount Etna.
During my visit to Graniti the town celebrated their patron saint San Sebastiano. I watched them bring the statue from the church and carry it through the steep and narrow streets of Graniti. The fireworks they set off above the church were beautiful but very loud! Later we walked through the market and then went back to the terrace on the top floor of Zia Mela’s house to watch more fireworks. I will miss the fresh pastries every morning, relaxing with my family and especially il gelato!
Here are a few other interesting facts about Sicily:
People in Sicily consider themselves Sicilians first and Italians second.
About 70 percent of people in Sicily actually speak Sicilian not Italian. In fact Sicilian is so different from Italian that even though it is referred to as a dialect, it could be a language in its own right.*
One of the world’s most famous mathematicians, Archimedes, was born in Sicily.
Most Italian-American immigrants came from the south of Italy from Naples and south to Sicily. Sicily is home to two out of three of Italy’s active volcanoes: Stromboli and Etna. The other volcano in Italy is Vesuvius near Naples. Mount Etna is also the tallest volcano in Europe and about 25 percent of the Sicilian population lives on its slopes.
*Joey mentioned that when the relatives spoke “Italian” it sounded different than the Italian he learned at La Mia Piazza Summer Camp.